Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The growing potential of Mali’s fruit industry

One of the fastest growing industries is the fruit industry, although it is still relatively small compared to rice and corn. Most of the fruit is exported to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal which produce fewer mangos and have slightly different harvesting periods. Potential buyers in other regions, such as Europe, also seem to have an interest, especially in mangos, but so far Malian producers have failed to enter the European market. This is a great loss to them as exports to Europe could be highly lucrative.

There is a growing demand for fresh mangos and for products derived from mangos such as dried mangos, mango pulp etc. One of the bottlenecks for mango producers and exporters is that fruits for countries in the North need to meet very stringent criteria with regard to the origin of the product, the way it was grown, if and what fertilisers and pesticides were used, and how it was packed. Up until now it has been impossible for Malian producers to collect and process this data as there is no information infrastructure or system in place to compile, register and make this information accessible. But things are about to change.

Fruiléma, a business venture consisting of 5 mango producers, recently launched a web platform with help from the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) - an international NGO based in the Netherlands and Manobi - a private sector company based in Senegal. The platform enables potential buyers to follow the whole production chain, right from where and how the mango was grown to as far as the company that is offering them for sale. Thanks to this platform, the fruits sold by Fruiléma can be compared with the quality criteria defined by GlobalGap (formerly known as EurepGap); a European certificate that guarantees insights into the origin of the product, the way it was grown, the circumstances under which it was grown, the way it was treated (fertilizers, pesticides), and how it was packaged, etc. The platform will help Fruiléma enter new markets and should attract new importers for their produce.